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This, I believe about the Mormon church (and some things I've noticed)

Here's how I came to be Mormon, as best I can figure: My mother's family was converted in their tiny hamlet in northwestern Louisiana, but I don't think many of them were very active members. When Mother moved to D.C. and married my dad, he was a wild man who smoked and drank coffee. After my older sister was born, Mother finally convinced Dad to convert. Thus, I was born into the covenant.

In D.C., we were very active members of The Church. We had senators and White House staffers in our ward. But then Dad retired and moved to the Mississippi gulf coast and the church was much different down there. By the time I was a teenager, Mother had been ex-communicated, my brother had given up religion for pot-smoking, and I'd decided that my views were entirely too liberal for the Mormon church. Since Dad has passed, my sister is the only member left in the family. And let me just say, she's such a good Mormon. She and her husband-for-time-and-all-eternity hold all kinds of [unpaid] positions in The Church and she bakes her own bread. Those are the only two requisites for Relief Society Hall of Fame really.

But recently Mother has decided that she's going back to the Mormon church. This is based purely on her relationship with my sister, but she swears that it's different this time. She owned the scriptures, but she never read the Book of Mormon like a book and studied it like a text. This time, she has a testimony for real and not just one obtained by osmosis. I don't really care, as long as she doesn't send the missionaries to my house.

Because I still believe that my views are too liberal for the Mormon church. In fact, I have several beliefs about The Church that are set in stone. Or golden plates, as it were:

1. I believe that Joseph Smith was nothing more than a shyster with a god complex. Rumor has it this wasn't the first religion he tried to start, just the first one to stick.
2. I believe that he initiated polygamy as a tenet of his made-up religion so that he could have sex with 16-year-old girls. "Seriously, Emma! GOD TOLD ME TO!"
3. I believe that, rather than dying a martyr, Joseph Smith probably got what was coming to him. If anyone deserves to be cannonized, it's his long-suffering wife, Emma.
4. I believe that secret handshakes should be saved for treehouses and the He-Man Woman Haters Club. Which, by the way, is also the sub-title for the Mormon church.
5. I believe that the Mormon church is the biggest sexist organization not paying taxes in America today. I once read a woman's story about how EVERY YEAR on Mother's Day, the theme in Sacrament Meeting was the value of the Priesthood in our families.
6. I believe the three divisions of heaven idea is church dogma as determined by six-year-olds. "Heaven and hell? Only two? HAH! Mine has THREE!"
7. I believe that baptisms for the dead (as well as the other temple ceremonies) are pure baloney and don't really mean a thing. Nevertheless, it was still highly inappropriate of those Mormons to start doing baptisms for the Jews killed in the Holocaust.
8. I believe the Mormon church is a cult. Let's just look at this checklist published by ICSA for a moment:

The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. Check. Joseph Smith is second in line to the throne, right after Jesus Christ Himself.

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. Check. Such behavior will result in disciplinary action up to and including ex-communication.

Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). Not so much this one, unless you count those top-secret Temple ceremonies.

The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel. Check. Ten Commandments weren't enough for Joseph Smith. He had to include 13 Articles of Faith, too.

The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members. Check. See entries: "Only LDS Members Can Enter the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven" and "Only True Church on the Face of the Earth."

The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict ith the wider society. Check. Oh, the persecution!

The leader is not accountable to any authorities. Check. Case in point: How they were able to prevent black men from holding the Priesthood until the late 70s.

The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group. Check. It's all about the eternal reward.

The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. Check, check. The pressure to conform includes threat of being disfellowshipped. The horrors.

‪Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. Check. Just ask the ostracized family members of converts if you don't believe me.

The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. Check. Perhaps you've noticed all those 19-year-old boys in ties out proselytizing on bicycles?

The group is preoccupied with making money. Check. If you're confused about how much to tithe, just consider: Would you like your blessings paid on the gross or the net?

Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. Check. The only paid position at the local level is the building janitor. The entire church is run on a volunteer basis.

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. Check. Teens are warned NOT to date non-members as you may accidentally fall in love with one and then you're doomed to a secular marriage ceremony that is only lasting until death do you part and NOT for time and all eternity.

The most loyal members (the "true believers") feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. Check. Ex-pats like myself are doomed to an eternity of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

8. I've noticed that the Mormon missionaries now look like little kids. It kind of eeps me out to think how I used to have crushes on the Elders when I was in high school.
9. I've noticed that there are A LOT more temples now. When our family was sealed, we had to go all the way to Salt Lake. When they built a temple in DC, that was a really big deal. Now, hell, there's one right here in Memphis.
10. I've noticed that The Church prefers to be called "LDS" instead of "Mormon" now. I wonder why that is? There must be a public relations purpose for this change, but I can't for the life of me imagine what it would be.

Not that The Church doesn't desperately need an image overhaul (in my opinion), but that's one free-lancing job I am not willing to take on.

To quote a dear friend of mine, "Mormon could accidently be called Moron because how the hell do they expect people to believe Joseph Smith translated the BOM from a bunch of tablets while looking into a hat."

I have very good friends of mine that were Mormon and, hell, I almost converted myself (but my coffee addiction was not ummm.. understood by my non-ex's family). I think faith is that - faith - and I see your points. You are echoing alot of my thoughts..

Now those fundamentalist Mormons - eeks! Natalie Collin's blog has alot of insight on that Jeff guy...

I'm glad tho that your mom is happy - sorry to hear they ex'd her back in the day.

**Some of those elders weren't bad to look at back then - however, my friend Bec scared a couple of them off by questioning the LDS' stance on working moms. They didn't come back after that...

I grew up with a lot of Mormons, sorry, LDS'ers, and one thing that I never understood...why were they all so damn goodlooking? Show me an below averge looking Mormon. I haven't seen ONE in Arizona. All cute. With scrubbed fresh faces and shiny hair!

it's all that clean living, I suppose.

Hey, I have actually been to the SLC Temple and Tabernacle. I am so worldly.

I married a Mormon; we had a prophet do the ceremony. We didn’t even call it a wedding it was a commitment ceremony. But now he is with me.. Forget the religion for a while, you can always change your mind on the deathbed. This saves you a lot of time and money.. Best over all way to go. I am sure if you asked a financial advisor they would agree with me.

Oh I have to add. My hubbies family is really wonderful to me. I think sometimes they like me more then him. Its because they are mostly girls on his side and I am a true girly girl. Just wanted everyone. Thank ya

I don't know (and you probably haven't) if you have seen the South Park about this but its hilarious. Anyways, I went to school (Icollege) with a ton of LDS and they are almost as scary as the Church of Christ (which are some of my best friends)

"Only True Church on the Face of the Earth."

I laughed at this one, since my husband seems to think that Catholics have that distinction!

I found your blog on Michele's blogroll. This is an interesting and well-written post.

I followed a comment on Carmen's website to yours.

I would venture to say all organized religion could be classified as a cult.

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